OWEN Coyle may have business elsewhere in Lancashire this afternoon but his presence will still loom large over this afternoon’s local derby.
It is five months since the Glaswegian left the Reebok Stadium in bitter disappointment but, as he prepares to embark on a new chapter in his career at Blackpool, his name will undoubtedly crop up in conversation among both sets of supporters today.
Separated by 22 miles, Bolton and Burnley’s rivalry was hardly a fierce one until Coyle controversially swapped sides in January 2010 to leave Clarets fans’ blood boiling and cause the biblical references to start flying.
Burnley dubbed him “Judas” while Coyle was claiming “Moses” for having taken the team into the promised land of the Premier League in the first place.
That Chung-Yong Lee’s goal decided a game between the two sides just a fortnight after his departure only served to intensify the bitterness, as did Burnley’s relegation later that season.
The two sides have met twice since, both at Turf Moor, and the games have ended with Wanderers wilting under the pressure.
That Coyle is likely to be somewhere on the Fylde Coast today to cast an eye over his prospective new club has certainly taken some of the spice out of the occasion. Play-off chasing Burnley have picked up their more traditional rivalry towards Blackburn and may well dig out their rubber masks once more when they travel to Bloomfield Road in April.
But Chris McCann, one of the players who Coyle took into the top flight in 2009, insists there is still good reason to get hot under the collar.
“Bolton is a big game,” McCann said. “It’s a stepping stone to getting into the play-offs at the end of the season hopefully, and getting back in the Premier League.
“That’s very realistic if you look at where we are in the league. We’ve played everybody once now, we know there’s nothing to be fearful of. It’s another of these big derbies. The fans build the rivalry up, if Owen Coyle hadn’t gone there it probably wouldn’t have been as big a rivalry.
“But it’s still a Lancashire derby, there’s a lot at stake and I think we’re unbeaten in derbies this season so we want to keep it that way.
“We saw with the Blackburn game how ecstatic people were in the stadium when we scored and in these games there’s that little bit more pride and passion for us to go out there and win, especially for the fans to give them something to smile about.”
Burnley will be roared on by 3,500 fans in a match in which McCann is looking forward to renewing acquaintance with former team-mate Chris Eagles, who was used as a substitute in the 2-0 defeat at Turf Moor on the first day of the season.
“I still keep in touch and I’ve seen Chris a couple of times since he’s left,” he said.
“We’ll be aware of the danger he poses.
“But we’re not just going to concentrate on him, they’re a good side.”